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AmeriCorps VISTA Tag

Harvest Share program promotes gardening education on the Palouse

14.08.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Action Center, Harvest Against Hunger, Harvest VISTA, Washington Site

Harvest Against Hunger Capacity Awareness VISTA Robyn Glessner serves at the Community Action Center (CAC) in Pullman, which has been an endless proponent and advocate for ending hunger through sustainable food production and community collaboration throughout the Palouse for 30 years. One of their mottos is, “solving local needs with local solutions”, which perfectly frames my desire to work in an area that provides relief with sustainable solutions at its center. The office also provides energy assistance, housing, and weatherization services, as well as a food pantry, community garden, and computers for WorkSource applicants. In tandem with the desire to connect local food-insecure communities with the food producers in the region, the CAC and the first-year VISTA created the Palouse Tables Project. Within the work of this project, the regional community had expressed a desire for educational opportunities open to the public focused on self-sufficiency, in the form of preparing and preserving their own foods and gardening. Along these lines, the Palouse Tables Project will continue by providing opportunities for education courses and materials by adapting curriculum and coursework and then training local volunteers to teach these skills to the public.

In June of this year, the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA Robyn Glessner began a Harvest Share program for local gardeners to meet once every two weeks to share their produce and gardening stories with one another. This program was created in tandem with the Koppel Community Garden in Pullman, where the host site Community Action Center has matched four clients with their own plot to garden on and grow their own food. These plots were generously donated for this purpose by a handful of fellow community members and gardeners. The Harvest Share program brings together clients and other community members from all walks of life to come together and find unity in growing food. The Koppel Community Garden board helped to cultivate this opportunity not only by facilitating gardeners to donate plots but by also including the opportunity to sign up for the harvest share within their general gardener application. Ten of the gardeners who grow at Koppel have signed up to participate in the harvest share for the coming weeks.

At this Harvest Share, gardeners brought in fresh sage, mint, chives, scallions, lacinato kale, cherries, strawberries, green garlic, salad greens, and garlic scapes. One of the community members shared that they had planted their garden this year in order to participate in this program and next year they want to plant an additional row or two so that more and more of our community members have access to fresh produce. This sentiment is at the heart of the work that the Community Food group at the Community Action Center moves to accomplish. Along with fruitful discussion made about each individuals gardening experiences this growing season, advice and experiences were swapped as well as boxes of produce. Each participant was able to pick and choose what they wanted to bring home with them. The Community Action Center provided recipe cards describing dishes that used the produce that was brought including such things as green garlic sauce, freezer jam, and chia jam. The participants from the Harvest Share were invited back for the next share at the Community Action Center, hoping to garner more and more participants in the weeks to come.

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Earth’s Table Builds on Partnership with Community Food Share to Fight Food Insecurity

08.08.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Colorado, Community Food Share, Harvest VISTA, National Site, Volunteering

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA Malik Salsberry serves at Community Food Share, a nonprofit located in Louisville, CO. This nonprofit is one of the five Feeding America food banks that help to serve all of Colorado and Wyoming. With Community Food Share’s focus being Boulder and Broomfield counties. This nonprofit makes its distinction from other food banks in the area by having a major focus on fresh produce and protein, with goals of 75% being fresh produce, fruits, and vegetables, and protein sources, like fresh milk, eggs, beans, and meat. Community Food Share supports other area food pantries as well as their own programs which serve different populations like children and the elderly.

Although this year has been seen as one of Colorado’s most wet years on record, Harvest VISTA Malik Salsberry is still finding space and participants to help collect and distribute fresh produce this season. Harvest VISTA Malik spent time connecting Conga, a large digital technology company, with Earth’s Table, one of Community Food Share’s long-time partners, together for a week of garden work. These gardening tasks may include weeding, planting, harvesting and cleaning produce, and other activities found around these spaces.

Finding these gardens isn’t a difficult task as they are cultivated on donated properties from community members, which is a part of the non-profit’s design. Earth’s Table gardens are all volunteer-powered. They connect over 100 volunteers to their gardens to help with planting, harvesting and managing the gardens. Conga was able to bring those numbers in one week by bringing around 120 volunteers to help harvest produce as Colorado starts to move toward late fall.

These volunteers carpooled and gathered at several of the different gardens, which are scattered all around the city of Boulder, and worked on harvesting zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, pole beans, beets, and other produce. This produce is directly distributed to Community Food Share and other non-profits in the area and is usually distributed the same or next day.

Since 1999, Earth’s Table has served as a consistent partner and supporter of Community Food Share and our Boulder and Broomfield Counties service area by providing fresh produce to our neighbors in need. Earth’s Table is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is completely volunteer-run, including the management of the seven garden spaces that were donated for them to cultivate. Earth’s Table donates 100% of its produce to local non-profits, including over 42,000 pounds in 2018. Since their founding in 1999, Earth’s Table has donated nearly 250,000 pounds of produce to Community Food Share and several other non-profits within our service area.

The goal of the Garden Share Program is to help fight insecurity in Boulder and Broomfield counties by providing our participants with high-quality, locally grown produce.

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Southeast Produce Council Donates Fresh Produce in the Fight against Hunger

01.08.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Florida, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, Harvest VISTA, National Site, Society of Saint Andrew, Volunteering

Harvest Against Hunger Capacity VISTA Mykevia Jones serves at Society of Saint Andrew Florida, a nationwide, faith-based, ecumenical, nonprofit ministry operating a variety of programs that fight hunger in America. The Society of Saint Andrew’s gleaning network coordinates thousands of volunteers with local farmers to actually enter fields and groves after the harvest, and pick up the tons of good purchase left behind and distribute of these loads to large food banks. Thus far in 2019, our dedicated volunteers have collected 2,222,667 pounds of produce that have been distributed to 84 different agencies throughout the state of Florida.

As Society of St. Andrew Florida’s gleaning season comes to an end, Harvest VISTA Mykevia Jones gears up to coordinate the last fresh produce drop for the summer. While, Barbara Sayles, SOSA Florida’s Regional Director led a mission’s trip in Peru, Harvest VISTA, Mykevia handled the Fresh Harvest for Families event logistics which consisted of, multiple event location site visits, coordinate the produce truck delivery, volunteer correspondence, and produce distribution tracking.

A tractor-trailer load of grade A peaches, cucumbers, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and assorted mixed vegetables was donated by SOSA’s long-time partner, the Southeast Produce Council (SEPC). Twenty-three produce-filled pallets were delivered to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church parking lot. Over 300 youth from the Alliance Youth 2019 Life Conference came to volunteer and bag the fresh produce. The produce was then picked up and distributed by several food banks, including Second Harvest and Palm Beach Food Bank, local churches, and social service agencies.

In the last nine years, Society of St. Andrew’s partnership with SEPC has resulted in over 3.7 million servings of nutritious food distributed to hungry people across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. To date, the SEPC has become the largest distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables to food-insecure individuals in the Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, and Palm Beach areas, feeding over 600 families!

The goal of the Fresh Harvest for Families event is notably to provide local food-insecure residents with fresh and nutritious produce.

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Discovering Food Justice: Under the Overgrown Garden

25.07.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, OIC of Washington, Volunteering, Washington Site

Harvest VISTA Gleaning Coordinator VISTA Mary Pearl Ivy serves at OIC of Washington, a non-profit organization providing community services through federal, state and local funding sources. Mary Pearl’s focus is with the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which aims to supplement the diets of low-income Americans including the elderly by providing them with food and nutrition assistance at no cost. In addition to the farm to table communications for the food bank, Mary Pearl recruit’s volunteers to work within a community garden, in hopes of providing access to knowledge and resources for individuals to grow their own fresh foods.

Within the first couple weeks of her service, Mary Pearl hosted three large groups of volunteers to revive the completely grass encroached community garden; and the results were mind-blowing. What started as a hands-on volunteer opportunity, with some games and a snack turned into a dialogue about food justice and social justice! The three groups of students with Quo’s Discovery Washington program visited OIC in addition to local orchards and organizations in the community. They were introduced to the concept of migrant workers in the field and wanted to know more about where their food comes from and what it means for a community to have food insecurity. The VISTA asked one of her colleagues that works with the National Farm Workers Association to come in and speak on the opportunities that they provide, as well as his own experiences in the field. The attentive observations and inputs that these seventh graders had to share were inspiring. One of the teachers even mentioned that the world was not giving youth enough credit.

The VISTA was especially touched when the students asked to stay and work in the garden longer. The students were plotting ways to help fundraise, stop food insecurity, and misconceptions in this community and their own. After all their hard work in the garden, it is now open enough to host younger groups of volunteers as well as community members. Thanks, Que for connecting us to these amazing, hardworking students and teachers!

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Gearing Up For Harvest!

17.07.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, SW WA, Urban Abundance, Washington Site

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA Lynsey Horne serves as program coordinator of Urban Abundance, a program of Slow Food SW WA in Vancouver, WA. Slow Food SW WA is an international organization that advocates for good, clean, fair food for all, and their program Urban Abundance’s mission is to engage neighbors in the maintenance, harvest, and creation of edible landscapes that are accessible to everyone. Urban Abundance is currently partnered with five fruit tree orchards in the Vancouver area to coordinate the seasonal maintenance, harvest, and donation of the fruit to the food bank, and holds workshops and other events throughout the year to engage community members in their food sovereignty.

Harvest VISTA Lynsey Horne got her first small gleans under her belt this spring with a 300 lb harvest of lettuce regrowth and about 100 extra tomato starts from a work party. Working with an organization that primarily gleans in the fall from several community orchard partners around Vancouver, Washington, fresh food donations mostly take place from August-October. That said, Urban Abundance has been shifting its focus from holding work parties and workshops in the orchards, teaching people about fruit tree care, community agriculture, and pollinators to preparing for harvest season and their biggest harvest event and fundraiser of the year Pick-a-Pear-a-thon.

In the five orchards that Urban Abundance has formed partnerships with throughout the past nine years, there are a variety of fruit trees ranging from Bartlett pears, quince, persimmon, and several different apple varieties. Pick-a-Pear-a-thon, the biggest and one of the first harvest events that will take place at the start of the harvest season, happens when the two biggest orchards ripen at the same time. Between the two, there are about 400 Bartlett pear trees, and Urban Abundance’s volunteers have two weeks to pick as many as possible before they start to rot in the middle. They will be harvesting two times a day during those two weeks – it’s all hands on deck!

There have been lots of great opportunities to promote this upcoming harvest season in Vancouver, too. Lynsey has had a presence at multiple days of downtown Vancouver’s awesome weekend markets, and the annual Recycled Arts Festival, which drew a huge crowd and took up the entirety of Esther Short Park for the whole weekend. Urban Abundance is also planning a Pick-a-Pear-a-thon kickoff party at a local restaurant/bar called Brickhouse. This event will have a few special menu items made with Clark County, Washington sourced produce, a pear cider on special, and live music from 3-8. Hopefully, this will be a successful fundraiser, as the non-profit will receive the proceeds from the local menu items and the pear cider on tap. In all, the activities have very much shifted for VISTA Lynsey Horne, from orchard maintenance work parties and workshops to marketing, doing outreach, and recruiting harvest volunteers, but this harvest season is looking like it’s going to be a great one!

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A FRESH new table at the Made in Georgia Festival, giving FRESH information about gleaning

10.07.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Georgia, Harvest Against Hunger, Society of Saint Andrew

Miracle Wilson joined Society of St. Andrew as a VISTA/Program Coordinator in Atlanta, GA. This nonprofit organization serves its community by providing gleaned fresh produce back into the community through the involvement and awareness of community members. Going into a new area, metro Atlanta, they seek to bring the community together and bring awareness to fight hunger for themselves, their neighbors, and for the state of Georgia.

The last week in June was a hot one for north Georgia where the temperatures reached about 95 degrees and higher over the week! On June 29-30th Miracle Wilson went to Young Harris, GA to set a booth up at the 2nd Made in Georgia Festival, bringing awareness to food insecurity in their region. Northern Georgia has many cities and towns that spread out due to the terrain they are a part of, the Appalachian Mountain, which creates challenges to accessing fresh food. With thousands of attendees between Saturday and Sunday, Miracle saw this as a great opportunity to network and possibly recruit volunteers. This was the first time Society of St. Andrew had been a part of an event in north Georgia, especially at an event where most of the other booths had something to sell or offer.

Expectations for the booth were moderate, but within the first 30 minutes the table was booming with interest, and people wanted to hear more about food insecurity in their communities and how they could help. Several families came by and talked with Miracle, and studied a map of Georgia that highlighted the food insecure areas. Some people even shared that some areas were much worse than what the map had projected. This was very refreshing because the festival, not only sold products but also had people become educated on food waste happening in Georgia. Although Miracle had nothing to “offer” she did have a lot of information to offer that will help those in need.

Not only did Miracle speak with to her fellow Georgians but also people from Florida and Alabama who seeks to carry out their interest with Society of St. Andrew branches in each of those states. Miracle’s focus was making connections and just hoping to get the word out, but all expectations were exceeded. Five people were even so thankful for her presence that they donated money to the organization, and many others suggested farms and other places for potential gleanings. Miracle spread the word about food insecurity in north Georgia and gave people the opportunity to be involved and volunteer to beat hunger in their state.

~Another great June highlight: Miracle received her first donations as a VISTA, which included watermelons and peaches!

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Growing winter crops for the Food Bank

21.06.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Harvest Against Hunger, Washington Site, Whidbey Island

Harvest Against Hunger Capacity VISTA Brandi Blais serves at Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores, an innovative shopping model food bank located in Langley, WA. Supported by a combination of in-kind donations and revenue from its two thrift stores, Good Cheer provides food to 800+ families on South Whidbey Island each month. The gleaning program is an essential part of Good Cheer’s grocery rescue efforts, adding locally sourced fresh produce to the food bank during the harvest season. Brandi’s mission at Good Cheer is to expand and build on the existing gleaning program, creating a sustainable, volunteer-led program that will continue to bring fresh produce to those who need it for years to come.

Good Cheer is fortunate to have many generous gardeners on the south end who regularly donate fresh produce throughout the summer, but fresh produce donations in the winter are less common. Gardening during the winter is challenging, but it can be done! And, it’s a great way to have fresh produce for your table in the winter. This year, Island County is promoting the Grow A Row program to encourage donations of fresh produce to Whidbey Island Food Banks.

If you feel like a challenge, try planting some winter crops! Leeks, parsnips, and brussel sprouts are good choices for this climate, along with kale and cauliflower. Now is the time to plant for fall and winter harvests – check out the Tilth guide for tips and information on planting and extending the harvest season.

Our intrepid garden manager, Stephanie, kept one of the Good Cheer Garden kale beds going last winter, mainly by just letting it do its thing. She also grew some beautiful overwintered cauliflower, and our produce manager Lissa reports that her compost pile was warm enough to grow tiny but tasty new potatoes that she harvested early this spring. I let a few radishes hang around last fall (okay, let’s be honest – I planted them in an old ammo box and forgot about them till the spring) and they surprised me by not only surviving but flourishing; they flowered and then put out radish pods around the beginning of May. If you haven’t tried radish pods, they’re delicious, sort of spicy and just the thing for spring salads.

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Healing Gardens: Making the Namaste Community Garden Accessible to All

20.06.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, IRC, Washington Site

“Harvest Against Hunger Americorps VISTA Hailey Baker serves at the International Rescue Committee in SeaTac, WA. The IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. Hailey works with the New Roots program, a community garden and food access program within the IRC that helps individuals and families adjust to their new home through gardening, nutrition education, orientation to U.S. food systems, and youth leadership activities.”

The Namaste Community Garden in Tukwila, WA is a flurry of activity at this time of year. The growers, the majority of whom came to the U.S. as refugees from Bhutan, Nepal, and Burma, spend hours diligently digging, planting, weeding, and watering their plots.

One plot, usually bursting with life-giving food at this point in the season, sits overgrown and empty. Its keeper, a dedicated Bhutanese grower named Ram, recently lost both of his legs and is no longer able to garden. He still visits the garden often, riding his wheelchair along the main woodchipped path, but his inability to garden and connect with the land has left him feeling isolated.

At the same time, a group of ELL students at nearby Foster High School are hard at work on a big group project. The topic for the project is a wheelchair-accessible garden bed design. At the close of the project, the students presented their work to officials of the City of Tukwila, who were so impressed with the outcome that they pledged to make a donation to put the design into practice. Little did they know that a need for an ADA garden design was so close at hand.

With materials donated by community members and the City of Tukwila, New Roots and the Foster High students came together on June 6th and 7th to install permeable pavers and to construct two ADA-approved raised garden beds on the plot belonging to Ram. The pavers will allow his wheelchair to roll easily into the plot, and the raised beds will be tall enough for him to comfortably garden. The students, Foster High, and New Roots staff, and representatives from the City of Tukwila worked for several hours each day, doing everything from clearing space for the pavers to sawing wood planks for the beds.

Last week, Ram planted the first shoots of the season in the new raised beds. His wheelchair rolls easily over the pavers, and he can comfortably reach the soil in the bed from where he sits. The journey to healing has only just begun, but with his connection to the garden restored anything is possible.

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Combating Hunger Unites Veterans and Military Families

13.06.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Florida, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site, Society of Saint Andrew

Harvest Against Hunger Capacity Vista Mykevia Jones serves at Society of Saint Andrew Florida, a nationwide, faith-based, ecumenical, nonprofit ministry operating a variety of programs that fight hunger in America. The Society of Saint Andrew’s gleaning network coordinates thousands of volunteers with local farmers to actually enter fields and groves after the harvest, and pick up the tons of good purchase left behind and distribute of these loads to large food banks. Thus far in 2019, our dedicated volunteers have collected 2,222,667 pounds of produce that have been distributed to 84 different agencies throughout the state of Florida.

Check out the news coverage about the event Crop gleaning helps to feed the hungry

On June 11, 2019, SoSA Florida teamed up with Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Humana to raise awareness of food insecurity in Central Florida. Despite their sacrifices, veterans still struggle to provide food for their families. In reality, 25 percent of veterans struggle to provide food for their families and have reported low food security in the past year. The Uniting to Combat Hunger campaign is a supportive collaborative effort to alleviate hunger in Central Florida.

The goal of Uniting to Combat Hunger campaign is to provide 100,000 meals by organizing food drives across Florida to help meet their goal. This collaborative glean is one of the numerous solutions that will make a positive impact in the lives of veterans and military families across the state of Florida. “Over the past year, Humana and VFW have identified a number of areas where we can strengthen our partnership,” VFW Foundation Director Richard Potter said. “The issue of food insecurity among veterans quickly rose to the top of the list. By working together, we believe we can implement solutions that will make a positive difference in the lives of veterans and military families across the country.”

The gleaning took place at Long & Scott Farms in Lake County, Florida. Humana and VFW volunteers were also joined by a wonderful group of high school students from Washington, DC on mission camp with Hope Community Center in Apopka, FL, approximately 150 volunteers. The volunteers spent 3 hours hand-picking corn that would have otherwise gone remained in field and gone to waste. Together, they picked about 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of delicious Zellwood triple-sweet corn — enough for about 4,000 meals which was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank, where it will go to families who don’t have access to enough nutritious food.

Thanks again to SoSA Florida’s long-time family farm partner Long & Scott Farms!

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Market Day at South Seattle College

05.06.2019 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, King County Farmers Share Program, Rotary First Harvest, Washington Site

Harvest Against Hunger Americorps VISTA Gayle Lautenschlager serves at Rotary First Harvest on the King County Farmers Share Program. By developing direct purchasing agreements between farmers and food banks, the program aims to increase access to healthy fresh foods in high need populations.

As the semester drew to a close and students entered into the final weeks before Summer break, the South Seattle Food Pantry held its second Spring market day event. This year the event shone a spotlight on regional produce thanks to the King County Farmers Share grant. The King Conservation District has provided two years of funding to pilot direct farm to food pantry relationships between local growers and food banks. South Seattle College Food Pantry has historically relied on donated produce for the bulk of their regular distribution. Previous market day events have used available funds to purchase fruits and vegetables from a wholesale distributor. This is the first event to feature locally grown and freshly harvested produce.

Nearly 130 students were served through this event, the most in any one day for the food pantry to date. Thirty additional students were served via a pop-up event the following day at the Landscape Horticultural program. This event served to pilot purchasing directly from a grower and featured culturally relevant produce to reflect the diversity in the student population. A local grower specializing in Asian greens was selected to contract with. Three varieties of greens were purchased from Cascadia Greens in Enumclaw, Washington.

As a pilot program, opportunities to learn and grow from this initial event are plentiful. As the pantry committee met with the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA the following day, one main area of potential growth and improvement came to light. Based on which types of produce and in what quantities was first to go, expansion in the variety of produce was determined to be of importance. This opportunity to diversify the offerings will not only benefit the students who are served in the next market event but will help bolster additional King County farmers at the end of their season.

By bringing fresh, locally grown produce to students at South Seattle College, the King County Farmers Share program is increasing access to nutrient dense food in communities while helping to support local farmers in the process.

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